Printable Version
Pronunciation: hom-spên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Woven or spun at home. 2. Plain, simple, unsophisticated, homely, coarse, home-made, artless.

Notes: Today's Good Word is itself homespun, a simple, artless noun compound. Since its introduction in the late 16th century, it has been used figuratively to mean "plain" as well as "spun or woven at home".

In Play: Whir-r-rWe have no actual homespun yarns except those spun by craftsmen these days, so the word is used mostly to mean "simple, plain": "Natalie Cladd avoided homespun clothing like the plague." However, we now use the word more widely to mean "plain" or even "homely": "Jim Nabors played the TV character Gomer Pyle as a funny, homespun character with a big heart."

Word History: In Old English home was ham, yet preserved in hamlet. In German the same root produced Heim "home", Dutch heem "farmstead, homeland", Norwegian hjem "home", and Swedish hem "home". The PIE root seems to have avoided all IE languages except the Germanic ones. Spun presents a different story. The PIE root behind this word was (s)pen- "to draw (out), stretch, spin" with a Fickle S. Not only did it go into the making of spin, it produced the name of the most productive spinner of all: spider. A surprising derivative is pansy, from the S-less Latin word pendere "to weigh". Just as in English 'to weigh an idea' can mean to think about it, French turned the Latin verb into penser "to think". The past participle of this verb, pensée, came to mean "a pansy", the meaning which English borrowed with it. (Thank you William Hupy, a Lexiterian in the Agora, for recommending this lovely if homespun Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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